Soul Food teaches Eastern history of African American food


Onyekachi Okoh

Quera Owens, a nutrition and diabetics graudate student, presents the Soul Food, Nourishment For The Culture event in Klehm Hall Thursday evening. Owens made the lemon pepper honey fried chicken for the presentation.

Adriana Hernandez-Santana, Campus Reporter

For African American Heritage Month, the department of public health and nutrition shows the history of African American foods and shares ways to eat healthily.

For Southern African Americans, nothing is as comforting as soul food. 

Quera Owens and Arianna Hatchet, graduate students with a degree in culinary, hosted an event based on learning the culture, but also how to make it healthier. 

According to Owens, the creation of soul food dates back all the way to 1619, back when slavery was at an all time high. 

“Africans were given food rations once a week,” Owens said. 

Due to the fact that meat was so rare, it was not uncommon for most African Americans to be vegetarian. 

Meat was actually considered as a seasoning to things like collard greens and legumes. 

During the 1960s, soul food had evolved into three different categories: down home healthy, upscale extravagant and traditional. 

Although Southern white food is common, African American soul food uses more intense flavors, making it extremely popular amongst households. 

Owens, Hatchet and their culinary team prepared sampling servings of traditional macaroni and cheese, lemon pepper chicken and peach cobbler. 

After sampling the food, Owens continues on to show that even though the food may taste delicious, it’s not exactly the healthiest option. 

“Some of the most common health risks we see are type two diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity,” Owens said. “As a matter of fact, four out of five black women suffer from obesity.” 

In order to counteract this problem, Owens and Hatchet have come up with a solution to make soul food a little bit healthier. 

Providing a list, they explain how some simple food swaps can be beneficial and healthier in the long run. 

Foods like whole milk and ice cream can be substituted for a milk substitute or even sherbet. 

“Even plant-based ice creams are really great,” Hatchet said. 

The culinary team then provided another set of samples, the same foods, but it was all vegan. 

After sampling the second batch, the group was in harmonious consensus, the vegan was just as good as the traditional. 

This proved their study that health can be just as good as the real thing. 

One of the biggest concerns about trying to eat healthier is cost. 

Owens said buying your fruits and vegetables frozen, using a shopping list, making a list or even buying in bulk. 

The hardest piece of advice she offers is to limit the amount of already prepared food you buy and to avoid portion-controlled packages.

“Choose money over convenience,” Owens said. 

Jon “Tony” Oliver, the interim associate dean for the College of Health and Human Services, said where people shop for food matters.

“Do your research at your local grocery stores,” Oliver said. “Stores like Aldi, Rulers and even Dollar Tree save you money.” 

Even if you can’t make tons of changes right away, Krystal Lynch, assistant professor and interim program director for the department of dietetics and nutrition, suggests making small substitutions here and there. 

“Change the type of oil or meat you use,” Lynch said.


Adriana Hernandez-Santana can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].